Chapter 13: Summons

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Author's Note: Apologies for the missed update last week. 2020 decided to wing a few more life explosions in my direction, as 2020 does, devouring all my writing/editing time in one foul and frustrating swallow. But onward and upwards... with Chapter 13! This week's chapter art comes courtesy of Nanda Green on Unsplash. Thanks for reading!

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It was past three a.m. by the time we crept back up to the darkened lake house. Our feet moved soundlessly across the wooden deck and the squeak of the door was muted by a quick bit of magic. Perhaps if we snuck in like ghosts no one would realize exactly how long we'd been gone.

The adrenaline rush of the hunt and the feed and what had come after had worn off and been replaced with guilt that seeped in, sticky and impenetrable as tar. My mother had come all this way to spend time with me and I'd run off with Keel and spent the night screwing in some stranger's shed as if I were a teenager in a forbidden relationship, not a married woman with a supernatural war to wage. I definitely owed her an apology, even if her own night hadn't turned out so bad.

As Keel and I deposited our shoes by the back door, along with my coat, I made a mental note to set the alarm on the bedside clock-radio and cook everyone breakfast.

Your father's up.

I shrugged. Guess we're busted.

Think he's still mad about that thing with your mom?

No idea.

I followed Keel through the kitchen, down the hall, and into the living room. We hadn't yet made it to the front entryway and the stairs leading upstairs when a light flickered on. My father was waiting for us on the couch, as if we really were delinquent teenagers, breaking curfew. I hadn't realized we had one here – there hadn't been the explicit instructions there had been back at the motel – but the brooding expression on his face said otherwise.

"Where have you two been?" he asked, rubbing his eyes as if he'd nearly fallen asleep while waiting for us in the dark. Of course, we couldn't have gotten that lucky.

All of the things I could say ran through my head, but in the end I settled for honesty. "You and Mom were fighting, so I asked Keel to take me hunting with him."

Ephraim raised an eyebrow. "And did he?"

"He did."

"And?"

I wondered what he expected here; hopefully not a play-by-play rundown. "It was informative," I told him.

Keel made an odd sound behind me, like he was stifling a laugh. I did my best to ignore him.

"And it took..." my father paused to take a rather dramatic, pointed look at the wall clock, "more than six hours?"

I thought of that little shed - and everything that had been done inside it. How each moment I spent with Keel since arriving at the lake house strengthened the bond and reknit the connections that had been loosened in our neglect. How each moment of him made me feel painfully, violently, gloriously alive and powerful again. And how all of that was tied up in blood and hunger and sex and love and the burdensome territoriality of vampires. No, there was no way I was telling my father any of that. None. Nope. Never. I'd rather die first.

"Yes," I said, doing my best to keep my voice steady and even.

"And you two are...?" Ephraim seemed to lose his train of thought. First lucky break we'd had since coming inside.

I looked at Keel and smiled. Nothing fake in my grin. "We're good. Really good. Hunting was good."

"Okay then, that's all I need to know," Ephraim said, surprising me again.

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